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illegal manufacturing of methamphetamine
Drain cleaner. Rock salt. Coffee filters. Cold and diet tablets that contain ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. Lithium batteries. Automobile starter fluid. Gasoline additive. Sounds like a harmless shopping list, right? Wrong. These are some of the items that are the makings of methamphetamine (meth), an illegal, addictive drug produced in a growing number of clandestine laboratories nationwide. The items are often stolen or purchased in large quantities from pharmacies and retailers.
Pharmacy chains and supermarkets in Kansas are beginning to become more involved in detecting and preventing customers from stealing or purchasing these items in large quantities for illicit use, thanks to the Kansas Retailer Meth Watch program.
The program, which was launched two months ago, was developed by the Kansas Department of Health & Environment and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI). Team members implementing or endorsing the program include the Kansas Pharmacists Association, Osco Drug, Kmart, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Albertson's, Independent Grocers Association (IGA), Falleys/Food 4 Less, Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association of Kansas, Kansas Retail Council, and Fleming Foods.
In order to make it more difficult for customers to get the items they need to make meth, the program calls for merchants to do the following: train employees; use decals in the store and on shelves that will deter theft; limit the number of packages of pseudoephedrine-containing products that may be purchased; limit the number of packages on display; place products in high-staffed areas, aisles with video surveillance, and/or behind the counter; and complete and submit suspicious transaction reports to the KBI or local police department.
The program provides packets to retailers. The packets440 of which have been mailed free of charge to pharmacies and retailerscontain signage, a training poster, brochures to educate the public, shelf tags to increase public awareness, an instruction sheet on how to implement the program, and an order form for materials.
"We have a long way to go. We did a major mailing to large corporations, and now we're going to the smaller chains," said Bob Jurgens, unit chief of the Kansas Clandestine Drug Program, part of the Kansas Department of Health & Environment.
"There's only enough law enforcement personnel available to attempt to raid the 20% to 30% of meth labs that are operating in Kansas," said Jurgens.
"Meth cooks" need ephedrine found in pill form, not in syrups, in order to make methamphetamine. Methamphetamine is the second most addictive drug and one that is fairly inexpensive to buy, according to Jurgens. Meth cooks also use hydrous ammonia and store it in jugs that look like they contain water. Fumes from this ammonia can overwhelm anyone who opens the jug and inhales them.
Jurgens pointed out that in 2000, Kansas law enforcement officials seized more than 702 meth labs. This number is up from 511 in 1999, 189 in 1998, 99 in 1997, 71 in 1996, seven in 1995, and four in 1994. In 1999, trained law enforcement teams stepped up their search for clandestine meth labs.
Sandra Levy. Kansas launches program against meth labs.